Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne

Walerian Borowczyk’s 1981 film, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne, was long considered a lost film in many circles. It was never released in the US, and was only given a brief run in the UK. It was never released on VHS or DVD. And now, Arrow Video has released the film on a beautiful two-disc set, which is packed with special features.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne opens on an incredibly disturbing note, as a young girl is viciously murdered and nearly raped by a deranged madman. This event takes place on the night of the engagement party of Dr. Henry Jekyll and his fiancée, the lovely Fanny Osbourne. All of the guests are in attendance, including the immortal Patrick Magee as a sassy, self-righteous general.

Everything seems to be running smoothly, up until dinnertime, when Jekyll gets into a heated debate with his guests over his latest book, which is a study on altered states of consciousness. The mood begins to shift to something far more sinister soon afterwards. The same “madman” from the opening of the film is on the loose, and some of the guests are raped – even murdered. This sets off a search, with the remaining members of the party attempting to seek out the evil and destroy it.

If you know anything of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, then it should come as no surprise that it is Hyde, Dr. Jekyll’s repellant alter ego, who is wreaking all of the havoc. And while this may seem familiar, in Borowczyk’s hands, the material is handled with a slightly different approach. This is a very sexualized version of the story. Like many of Borowczyk’s previous films – especially the 1974 film, The Beast – the erotic imagery is rampant. The violence is extreme and always shocking. The sense of atmosphere and mood is what really makes this film stand out. It is genuinely creepy. It will shake you out of your comfort zone. This is a no-holds-barred affair – but it is also fun and more than a little campy. And it also features Udo Keir in one of his finest performances as Dr. Jekyll.

The film has been released in a two-disc set that is sure to please the many fans of the film. Special features are plentiful, and the transfer is absolutely flawless. The commentary is especially informative and is definitely worth a listen.

Highly recommended!

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